Keywords and Popular Culture Blog Post

In Jacqueline Reid-Walsh’s Keywords essay on the term “girlhood,” she explores the origins of the word “girl” and the cultural norms that come with girlhood. Reid-Walsh acknowledges how girlhood could be represented by a chronological phase of existence and psychological development, cultural construction, or a balance between the two. She also explores the origin of the word girl back to an Old English word for dress, gyrela. In her essay, Reid-Walsh demonstrates how girlhood, no matter how unconventional it may be, leads to females being stuck in conventional female norms as they grow up. However, a recent Super Bowl advertisement from Microsoft shows that girls today are breaking away from that and are no longer typical “girls.”

In her essay, Reid-Walsh points out how Philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau made the connection that girls perform fashion-doll play in girlhood only to grow up to become their own doll. As a matter of fact, English ideology of what being a girl is can be connected to the toy doll industry as it taught girls how to be good housekeepers and seamstresses through the use of dollhouses and dolls. In Canada, the Anne series portrays heroines that are initially tomboys but eventually grow up to accept conventional female norms. This enforces the idea that at some point, all females will display traditional behavior associated with girlhood.

Microsoft’s recent Super Bowl advertisement tells the story of Katie Sowers, the first female to coach in the Super Bowl. It starts off by showing how she always loved the game of football which is breaking away from the idea that football is a sport meant for boys and played by boys. However, she didn’t let conventional ideas of what being a girl is to deter her from following what she loved. The ad then depicts her now as a coach for the San Francisco 49ers and it includes a quote of her saying, “I’m not trying to be the best female coach, I’m trying to be the best coach.” This quote shows how many women today are tearing down the idea that girls should follow female norms and instead they should follow what they love even if it breaks the female norm.

2 thoughts on “Keywords and Popular Culture Blog Post”

  1. I agree that “females being stuck in conventional female norms as they grow up.” it poses that those norms are almost inevitable. Growing up around a lot of conventional norms, it can be very hard to escape that. Regarding the super bowl ad, I do believe that companies are trying to break away from those conventional ways. This is partly due to there being more of a demand for those less “conventional” standards. An example of this I can think of now is the Fenti fashion show.

  2. I agree that many companies are trying to intentionally steer audiences towards more modernized viewpoints of what it means to be a woman. When I saw the Superbowl ad you’re referring to, I was extremely moved by Katie’s drive and strong desire to break down gendered roles and norms. In reference to the Keywords essay on girlhood, it is certainly true that Katie is not being placed or stuck in a conventional female role. I also love that she did not follow the traditional trajectory you mentioned in the Anne series and stuck to who she was. Growing up to fulfill more feminine roles and forget about a hobby traditionally dominated by males was not how Katie wanted to live her life, and I’m glad she can serve as a role model for young girls today!

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